Shortly before he took his own life last week, celebrity chef and TV host extraordinaire Anthony Bourdain reportedly bought a painting titled “The Sky is Falling and I’m Learning to Live With It.”

But had he really?

Amy Kerr wonders.

Kerr, the artist behind “I Am More” — an exhibition of “survival portraits” showing today through Sunday at Ocean Alliance in Gloucester — knows all about depression.

Her own depression was what motivated her to create “I Am More,” pastel paintings of 16 locals who answered a call from Kerr for people who were willing to share the stories of their “dark sides.”

Bourdain’s death following the suicide of perky fashion icon Kate Spade stunned their adoring fans and a nation that equates material success with happiness. Kerr’s subjects know otherwise.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people this week who’ve said they are so glad this event is happening now so we can all be in one place to talk about it,” Kerr said.

Along with the exhibit, Ocean Alliance — which is headed by Kerr’s husband, Iain Kerr — will also host counselors from the Cape Ann chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health. The nonprofit, grass-roots organization is one of 1,000 NAMI affiliates and serves the Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, Essex and Ipswich communities with free advocacy, support groups, classes and education.

With his amazing energy and charismatic lust for life, Bourdain “seemed to be the antidote to suicide,” Kerr said.

But Bourdain had also been very candid about his dark side. It manifested itself in his younger days in multiple addictions, including heroin. Kerr said that in the wake of his death, she has been thinking about Bourdain’s need to constantly be on the move.

“It sounded like he was doing a lot of running,” she said. “You never want to be alone when you’re struggling.”

Those who do not suffer from depression are far too likely to dismiss it as a character flaw, and science is only really beginning to explore its neurochemistry.

Kerr herself had not found a solution in medication. So she prescribed her own remedy, or what the medical profession calls “a coping mechanism” — in her case, art.

The 16 subjects of her portraits, ranging in age from 15 to 79, have invented their own coping mechanisms, which they share in accompanying essays edited by Kerr. Her subjects are candid and unashamed to share their “dark sides.”

Kerr’s portraits celebrate the positive sides of their lives.

Following this weekend’s exhibit, the portraits will travel around the North Shore and Boston, hosted by a variety of businesses and organizations including North Shore Music Theatre, Gloucester City Hall, Addison Gilbert Hospital, Lahey Health Behavioral Services, Emerson College, Action Inc. and The Open Door.


What: ‘“I Am More”

When: Opening reception tonight from 7 to 10, followed by viewing hours Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Ocean Alliance, The Paint Factory, 32 Horton St., Gloucester

How much: Free

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